Connections - October 2014

Fri, 10/03/2014


An Update from Roswell Park Cancer Institute

The Power of Early Detection

The numbers don’t always tell the story, but here’s a number we’re particularly proud of: 128 men were screened for prostate cancer at our 4th annual Cruisin’ for a Cure event last month.

Candace S. Johnson, PhD Interim President & CEO and Cancer Center Director, RPCIThe annual car show and education/screening event, held in conjunction with the advocacy group Men Allied for the Need to Understand Prostate Cancer (MAN UP) and presented by West Herr Automotive Group, is an important piece of Roswell Park’s outreach platform. We embrace this opportunity to provide appropriate health screening and education to men, many of whom are at high risk for aggressive forms of prostate cancer. 

Just a few decades ago, before the development and wide use of the PSA blood test, a test — pioneered by Roswell Park’s own T. Ming Chu, PhD — that measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood, prostate cancer was almost always a fatal disease. Today, more than 80 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will survive the disease, thanks to early detection and improved treatments.

During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month of October, too, and with Lung Cancer Awareness Month just ahead in November, we’re reminded of the tremendous strides that have been made possible by cancer diagnostics — in the last quarter-century, for example, we’ve seen a 40% reduction in mortality from prostate cancer and a 30% reduction in mortality from breast cancer, trends credited in large part to the wide adoption of cancer screening. That significant degree of impact is one of the main factors in why Roswell Park expanded the services of its breast cancer diagnostic team this month with the addition of screening mammography not just for cancer patients but for the general population — that is, women in whom breast cancer has not been detected or suspected.

Worldwide, we still have tremendous hurdles to cross in terms of cancer prevention, access to early detection, delivery of care and therapeutics — and it will certainly take concerted, coordinated effort on all those fronts in order to control cancer effectively. Proven diagnostic tools that can detect early cancers or even precancerous cells exist only for a handful of cancer types: breast, cervical, colorectal, lung and prostate. Hopefully, the next decade will bring major progress in early detection of cancer.

And where good early-detection tools exist now, we should make sure that people are taking advantage of them as appropriate.

To keep your family informed, discuss cancer screening regularly with your primary care provider, and stay up-to-date with guidance on screening from organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, National Comprehensive Cancer Network and American Cancer Society.

You might also find these online Roswell Park resources helpful:

·         Breast Cancer Prevention & Detection

·         Cervical Cancer Screening

·         Colorectal Cancer Prevention & Early Detection

·         High Risk Lung Cancer Screening Program

·         Prostate Cancer Screening

— Candace S. Johnson, PhD
President & CEO
Cancer Center Director
Wallace Family Chair in Translational Research
Roswell Park Cancer Institute 

Institute News

Roswell Park Now Offering Screening Mammograms for General Public
The RPCI Breast Imaging team has expanded its services with the addition of screening mammograms for women who are not Roswell Park patients. “Cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment are our specialty. Applying our capabilities to breast cancer screening is an important part of our mission,” notes Dr. Ermelinda Bonaccio, Director of Breast Imaging.

RPCI Faculty Member a Partner in $5.7M Study on Breast Cancer in African-Americans
Through a $5.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers School of Public Health and Roswell Park will expand ongoing research on breast cancer in African-American women. The team, which includes RPCI’s Dr. Chi-Chen Hong, will explore the impact of health factors such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension on survival and quality of life.

Institute One of Only 18 Centers to Receive NCI Funding for HPV Vaccination Effort
The National Cancer Institute has awarded RPCI a $150,000 grant as part of a nationwide effort to increase the number of adolescents receiving the human papillomavirus vaccine. The three-dose vaccine protects against infection with certain high-risk strains of HPV that are responsible for most cases of cervical and anal cancers as well as many genital and head/neck cancers.

Guest Message

By Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23)

Because of first-hand family experience, I’m a firm believer in the quality care and support hospice gives to patients and their families. That’s why I was happy to see President Barack Obama sign into law the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 (the IMPACT Act), which includes my bipartisan Hospice Opportunities for Supporting Patients with Integrity and Care Evaluations Act (the HOSPICE Act). Provisions in this bill will strengthen access to quality hospice care and give hospice providers the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively.

We depend on hospice providers for more than simply helping our loved ones. We also depend on them to bring peace of mind and comfort to our families. Strengthening hospice care is something people from across the political spectrum can come together to support. This law will improve hospice care delivery in America by putting fair accountability and transparency measures in place — so that families have access to the hospice care of their choice.

My goal has always been to give patients access to the highest-quality care possible. As the number of families impacted by serious illness continues to grow, the need to advance the level of expert care is greater than ever. While crafting the bill, we gathered input from local hospice and palliative caregivers as well as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a key supporter of the bill. We introduced the bill earlier this summer with Democratic colleague Rep. Mike Thompson of California.

Most hospices only undergo Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recertification surveys every six to eight years and some are surveyed even less frequently. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General report found that the current system for certifications is not providing sufficient oversight relative to other Medicare providers, and recommended an increase in certification frequency.

Our HOSPICE Act will require that certified hospices be subject to a standard survey at least every three years. This section brings additional transparency and accountability standards that will help both hospice patients and providers.

A substantial amount of spending on hospice is for patients exceeding 180 days resulting in higher costs. Our HOSPICE Act will allow the CMS to conduct a review of hospice programs that reach a threshold of patients in care for more than 180 days.

It is my sincere hope that through this bill, hospice patients and families will have access to high-quality care at a very difficult time and excellent hospice providers will be better positioned to offer that care.

Donor Dollars at Work

Exploring New Drug Targets for Treatment in Lung Cancer

Thanks to donations to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. Grace Dy, an Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine, has recently launched a study that could help improve outcomes for lung cancer patients.

Despite remarkable progress in research initiatives, lung cancer remains the second most common cancer in both men and women and is the leading cause of cancer death. More people die from lung cancer than from all of the other major cancers combined. There is a significant need motivating researchers and those who support them to ensure that advancements in the field continue.

Within the past five years, scientists have identified more genetic changes in lung cancer that can be targeted with drugs. These drugs can target specific mutations and have been shown to be more effective and have less serious side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs.

This Roswell Park project, funded by a grant from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, will determine whether mutations in a protein — leukocyte tyrosine kinase (LTK) — could be targeted with lung cancer drugs that have already been developed.

As part of the project, researchers will determine whether LTK mutations are critical in spurring the process of lung cancer growth. If LTK is a factor in the development of cancer, researchers will investigate the effectiveness of using drugs to target the mutation.

Findings from the project could provide justification for using established gene-targeted drugs in lung cancer patients with LTK mutations in their tumor. These patients could then have access to personalized medicine that can improve their outcomes and quality of life.

The Cancer Experts

Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:

Dr. Nikhil Khushalani to MedPage Today: “The treatment paradigms in advanced melanoma still revolve around immunotherapy, which is capable of inducing durable responses and cure. For most patients, immunotherapy should be used front-line reserving targeted therapy for later, but for those with BRAF-mutant disease that is symptomatic and rapidly progressing, combination BRAF plus MEK inhibition up front is very appropriate.”

Dr. James Marshall to Reuters Health: "Chronic prostatic inflammation has been understood for some time to be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. It was already understood that aspirin is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, and a fair number of studies have shown that aspirin is associated with decreased risk of various cancers. This adds to the evidence that it is associated with the risk of the kind of prostate cancer that kills people."

Dr. Carl Morrison to Cancer Therapy Advisor: “It’s always important for oncologists to weigh in and talk together about regulatory changes that are going to impact their delivery of care to patients. I think increased regulation and parity among manufacturers (of advanced diagnostic tests) across the country is definitely in the best interests of patients.”

Marrano Homes has been a committed supporter of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and has donated more than $700,000 through its unique Raising the Roof for Roswell initiative. 

As part of the project, the company donates the profits from a home’s sale back to Roswell Park’s patient-care and research programs.

At a press conference in October, Marrano Homes and Roswell Park celebrated the completion of the fourth Raising the Roof for Roswell home, located in Lancaster. Company President Patrick Marrano unveiled a photograph of the home at the event and presented Roswell Park with a check for $100,000! The donation will go toward the new Clinical Sciences Center, which will allow Roswell Park to expand its services and offer care to more patients.

“Raising the Roof is about supporting the most important hospital in Buffalo. We really believe in what Roswell represents and in the importance of Roswell to the community,” Patrick Marrano said. “Here we are four homes later and it’s been very effective, very successful. I see no stopping.”

Thank you, Marrano Homes, for your continued generosity!

Events & Promotions

Help Raise Money for Research with the Click of Your Mouse

Seneca Resorts & Casinos is donating $1 for every new like they receive on their Facebook page during October. Head to their page to raise funds for breast cancer research! Encourage your friends to like the page, too.


Honor a Loved One on the Pink Wall of Hope

When you purchase a brick on the Pink Wall of Hope outside of Chef’s Restaurant, it is engraved in your loved one’s honor. The bricks are $25 online at and $20 at Chef’s Restaurant, located at 291 Seneca St. in Buffalo. So far, the Pink Wall of Hope has raised $25,000! 


Shop to Support Breast Cancer Patients

Survive in the Buff, an online clothing shop created by a local cancer survivor, is donating 30 percent of its profits to the Western New York Breast Resource Center. The Breast Resource Center offers information and support to patients at Roswell Park. Shop at Survive in the Buff today!


Commemorate the Life of Someone Special 

Honor a loved one with a brick, paver, tree or bench placed in Kaminski Park at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. You can personalize your message to honor or remember a family member or friend. Or you can celebrate a special anniversary, birthday or other life event. You will be invited to a dedication ceremony at our Walk of Life and Gardens of Hope event, held annually in the summer. To learn more about this unique way of paying tribute, please click here or contact Gretchen LaRock at or call 716-845-4391.

RPCI in the News

HIPEC Drastically Changing Cancer Survival Rates — Time Warner Cable News
New CT Scans for Lung Cancer Screening at Roswell Park — WGRZ-TV Channel 2
Roswell Park Resource Center — WKBW-TV Channel 7
Ebola Transmission – Dr Brahm Segal — WBEN-AM 930
State House Passes Bill to Help Make Oral Anticancer Drugs More Affordable The Bradford Era
Students Get Insight Into Cutting-Edge Surgery in Visit to Roswell Park LabThe Buffalo News
Roswell Park Begins Genomic Testing for Lung CancerBuffalo Business First

See more RPCI headlines at

You Should Know

The Pneumococcal Vaccine — It’s Not Just For Kids

With health crises like Ebola and antibiotic resistant infections in the news coinciding with the onset of flu season, it’s understandable to have a heightened concern about the threat of infectious diseases.  While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccine for most everyone age 6 months and older, it’s a good time to review whether you should have the pneumococcal vaccine, too.

More than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria exist, and these bacteria are responsible for several types of serious pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia (lung infection), bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord). An estimated 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and 5% to 7% die from it.

The CDC recommends that all adults age 65 and older receive the pneumococcal vaccine, especially those who live in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities. In addition, adults age 19 to 65 with chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, asthma, kidney failure and some cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, should receive the vaccine. Adults undergoing treatment that lowers resistance to infection, such as long-term steroids, some cancer drugs and radiation therapy, should be vaccinated, too. Talk to your healthcare provider and your oncologist about whether you should get the vaccine and which one (or both) of the two types you need.

Legislative Update

New Distribution Channels for Key Cancer Drugs Likely to Dramatically Increase Costs for Providers

When a government agency announces plans to enact a new policy or change an existing one, a public comment or appeal period usually follows, allowing interested parties to debate the merits and shortcomings of the proposed change. 

Those conversations often play out in the public eye, as elected officials and media outlets draw attention to the policy or regulatory change and the impact it's likely to have. But when it comes to the practices and policies of a private-sector organization, no such conversation may take place — a reality illustrated by a recent shift in how major pharmaceutical manufacturer Genentech distributes three of its most-prescribed oncology drugs.

In mid-September, the company announced that, as of Oct. 1, the drugs Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Rituxan (rituximab) would no longer be provided to cancer centers and oncology practices through group purchasing organizations but would instead be available exclusively through a handful of specialty distributors — effectively removing significant discounts for high-volume purchasers. These drugs have been shown to be highly effective in treating colorectal, lung, brain, cervical and breast cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia and other conditions, and are not available from any other manufacturer.

There was no comment period or public discussion of the issue and its impact on oncology providers or patients. It is unclear why Genentech abruptly changed its longstanding distribution process.

Hospitals and centers that provide cancer care have very little recourse. In a largely symbolic gesture, a few organizations have banned the company’s sales reps from their facilities, but those hospitals and health systems will still purchase these drugs through the newly established channels.

National associations including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, of which Roswell Park is a member, and individual institutions have written letters asking Genentech to reconsider this change, but these efforts may be in vain. In the free market, a company may make changes like this without justifying its actions.